On Religious Liberty and the Constitution

The separation of church and state doesn’t mean “the government cannot favor religion over non-religion,” Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia argued during a speech at Colorado Christian University on Wednesday, according to The Washington Times. 

Defending his strict adherence to the plain text of the Constitution, Scalia knocked secular qualms over the role of religion in the public sphere as “utterly absurd,” arguing that the Constitution is only obligated to protect freedom of religion — not freedom from it. 

“I think the main fight is to dissuade Americans from what the secularists are trying to persuade them to be true: that the separation of church and state means that the government cannot favor religion over non-religion,” the Reagan-appointed jurist told the crowd of about 400 people. 

“We do Him [God] honor in our pledge of allegiance, in all our public ceremonies,” the conservative Catholic justice continued. “There’s nothing wrong with that. It is in the best of American traditions, and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. I think we have to fight that tendency of the secularists to impose it on all of us through the Constitution.”

Link

Wow. That piece of rank ignorance came from a Supreme Court Justice. Probably a good case for injecting the label “activist Judge”. The Constitution is absolutely required to protect the religious liberty of the citizen; but nowhere in our founding documents is found the enumerated power of the government to either endorse or favor religious belief.

This latest missive ties in to what I’ve been saying for years…..the American people have the inherent right to worship the faith of their choosing, or none at all….and this natural right is protected by the Constitution. This is not to say that violations of religious liberty do not occasionally occur, and we must remain vigilant to ensure that these abuses do no occur, and are not condoned by government. But most of the current crusades are not directed at protecting liberty, but advocating for just what Scalia proposes……government endorsement of religious belief. Or more accurately, the religious belief of those conducting the aforementioned advocating.

Case in point…public school prayer. Some believe that removing organized prayer during school hours was a violation of their religious liberty. But this was not the case. Any student or teacher may pray to their chosen deity at anytime time during the school day, provided that it does not distract from the activities or curriculum. Those who believe they have been wronged aren’t advocating for the ability to pray in school [as opposed to before or after]…they desire public and government acknowledgment of their beliefs. They desire an institutionalization of their belief in an omnipotent [and invisible] creator.

Government has no mandate, anywhere, to weigh in on the validity of any religious belief. Scalia argues that the Constitution does not prohibit government from acting on this vote of validity…but he is quite obviously confused [or promoting an agenda. i.e activism]. The Constitution, by definition, enumerates the powers of the government. The vaunted document does not comprise of a list of “don’t’s“….it is a list of “do’s“. Scalia in this regard, represents how this nation and society have fallen away from adherence to our guiding laws, and into the arms of political expediency and agendas.

An astute commenter at the linked piece puts it succinctly:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or restricting the free exercise thereof.” 

Any public law or policy that “favors religion over non-religion” clearly violates the First Amendment.

The important point to note is in the wording of the 1st Amendment, where if it were to state “respecting the establishment of religion”, then Scalia might have a point. In that case, favoring religious belief would not be the establishment of a government sponsored religion. But as it states “respecting an establishment of religion”, this quite clearly refers to religious belief. This states that the government does not possess the power to create law that favors the religious over the secular.

And that’s what the debate really bills down to. Some of the faithful, are not seeking religious liberty, because they already possess that. They can already exercise their natural right to worship in accordance with their faith without regulation or restriction from the government [generally speaking, and I think there is too much of this regulation to begin with]. They desire for government to codify in law, their religious belief system, at the expense of or detriment to, those who do not follow their faith or any faith at all.

Given the corrupt and corruptible nature of government, I’m at a loss as to why they would desire their faith to be bedfellows with the State. Doing so only dilutes and degrades both. I’m also perplexed as to why [predominately] Christians would favor establishing legal precedence for other belief systems….giving the bedwetting and hand-wringing over Islam.

Advertisements

17 thoughts on “On Religious Liberty and the Constitution

  1. Just speaking in regard to the main point….
    I think atheists go too far with their “I'm offended anytime I see a religious display in public”

    Well, I can't tell you how often I'm offended by what I see in public but I don't run around trying to sue all or any of them. I look the other way and this is what they should do. To demand people cannot show religion in public is a restriction of rights, just as my demanding for example, that I never ever see another gay pride parade. But there are a zillion examples.

    Like

  2. I understand your position, but I would argue that it's based upon a faulty premise.

    If I may speak for Atheists, the issues they raise and the cases they bring aren't motivated by a sense of offense. If that were the case, they would protest any display of symbology or religious activity. What they oppose, is the display and activity of religion on government premises or as a function of government. If you discovered an institutionalization or endorsement of Atheism in conjunction with the function of government, you would likewise have every right to bring suit, as it would be unconstitutional.

    Like

  3. ““When you’re not religious or are of another faith and you get prayed at during events, it’s really very grating.”
    …excerpted from a cease and desist letter sent to the University of Tennessee at Knoxville objecting to a team prayer at football games. http://www.campusreform.org/?ID=5936
    Srsly???

    The problem, as it seems to me, is that the FFRF and other groups are attempting to use the power of government to do just that. Institutionalize not the neutrality between beliefs ensconced in the Constitution, but active suppression of any public expression of any belief but theirs.
    As a devout agnostic I don't have a dog in this fight but I think you're drawing too fine a distinction between the respective world views. Government shouldn't be endorsing or enforcing either.

    Like

  4. As a fellow devout Agnostic, I think that the religiously inclined have every measure of religious liberty protected by the Constitution, yet still fight to have government act as a venue to proselytize their belief system. The Constitution does not protect a right to use government as this type of venue.

    They use the vagueness of the label 'public' to cry foul when they do not get their way, where it regards government venues.

    Like

  5. CI, Well, that's where it gets tricky. First off our government was formed heavily influenced by the Christian religion. Not the worst thing, but the point is No one is trying to force anyone to embrace any religion (Except for obama and islam)
    Many of our laws were formed based on the common rule of law from the 10 commandments. Don't lie, kill, steal from me, or mess with my wife. So how to people disassociate basic common law that any sane person recognizes from the bible. Difficult. How does a legislative branch of our government disassociate itself from basic common law that happens to align with Christian teachings. It can't. Until someone tries to force you to go to church, I say chill.

    Like

  6. Kid, the formation of the US government was informed by many sources. The few Commandments that are indirectly enshrined in US law, are also fund in natural law. The point is, a citizens right to religious liberty is not enhanced [but rather diluted] by association with government.

    Given your odd comment about Obama and Islam, I'm surprised that you would favor legal precedence by which Islamic activities could occur through the venue of government, like we see Christianity.

    Further, the Legislative branch cannot hope to apply law fairly if government endorses the validity of a belief system that resides within the souls of individual citizens. How can the legislative branch apply law to something one cannot prove? Our system has enough problems dealing with the tangible. You opine that when religious belief is institutionalized in government, nobody is being forced to embrace said religion. True.

    But the absence of that endorsement in government does not injure or degrade an individuals embrace of religion.

    Like

  7. Maybe I was confusing. You're losing me. I favor nothing related to islam. I point out that obama encourages and heavily supports islam in the US and the world, and takes direct actions to injure Christianity. The examples are many.

    “Legislative branch cannot hope to apply law fairly if government endorses the validity of a belief system that resides with individual citizens” Huh? This is the core principle of why and how America was formed. Individual liberty. Maybe I've had too much wine.

    Like

  8. I completely understand your position on Islam [I think]. But if you are going to allow government to endorse religion, it likewise cannot be sect-specific. It would have to be across the board. I certainly don't favor that, as I'm far less inclined to want Muslim prayers before government events than Christian.

    “This is the core principle of why and how America was formed. Individual liberty.”

    Yet our guiding document does not enumerate the role of government to endorse religion. As I wrote above, it's not there. Our individual liberty is not harmed by government having a completely [and Constitutionally] neutral position. As long as our religious liberty is protected by law.

    I'm about to dip into the SMS [still on Hawaii time].

    Like

  9. I don't favor government endorsing religion. I will admit that religions which are not religions, islam being a cult,or possibly theocracy, should be dealt with.

    I'm going to say I think there is much evil being done under the cover of some of our freedoms here in the US. islam a prime example. What if you and I go up the mountain for a few weeks and come back declaring all women under 150 lbs are required to ear bikinis year round. And all those opposed het their heads chopped off. That we lay down just because some people – muslims and dumbasses – refer to islam as a religion is one of our big problems here.
    Back on topic I don't understand why religions can't be ignored by those who wish to not include them selves. Change the channel. Don't participate. etc.

    Like

  10. You realize that the notion that Islam isn't a religion, is a personal opinion not a legal one.

    Regarding “changing the channel”…we're talking here about government venues, not commercial. If I don't wish to hear an invocation at my Town Council, should I avoid participation in government? Likewise, who is harmed by removing such government endorsement? Pray before [or after] [or during, silently] the activity is you so desire, don't hold the public hostage to a belief system, when such is not a function of government.

    Like

  11. islam, unfortunately not a legal one. One of many absurd constructs allowed to fester in society…

    Yes I agree, people should not be forced to pray at governmental proceedings.
    As far as the 10 commandments being displayed in front of a court of law, I'm not so determined. If people are so inclined to remove such things, then I don't want to ever see a mosque as I drive from here to there.

    Like

  12. I certainly have no issue with the inclusion of the 10 Commandments as part of a larger tribute to our system of jurisprudence…but the symbology by itself, is as much an endorsement of religion as would a display of Hadith's or Sura's.

    Like

  13. That's fine with me. I was only trying to say that our laws and the 10 commandments intersect quite a bit which I think confuses people. It would be equally fine for me if the government transformed this concept and said we are the nation of human rights and individual liberty as a quick example.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s